Journal of International Business Studies

, Volume 42, Issue 5, pp 608–628 | Cite as

Foreign locals: A cautionary tale on the culture of MNC local employees

  • Dan V CaprarEmail author


Multinational corporations (MNCs) rely heavily on local employees when conducting their international operations, yet the international business literature provides few instances of true focus on these employees. The commonly used label “host-country nationals” (HCNs) confers them an identity strongly related to the culture of their country, prompting both researchers and practitioners to “know” them through the knowledge about the local culture. This paper provides evidence that a more sophisticated view of the culture of HCNs is needed: through an ethnographic exploration of HCNs working in local subsidiaries of American MNCs in Romania, I reveal that HCNs are not always culturally interchangeable with the rest of the host-country population. HCNs can display a variety of cultural profiles more or less reflective of the national culture, depending on their enacted stance towards the native culture and the cultural landscape of the MNCs themselves. The findings call for further specification of theories relying on the assumed localness of HCNs, and should contribute to the ongoing conversation on the interplay between the cultures specific to the MNC and its host countries.


culture cultural impact of MNCs national culture 



Special thanks to Mary Yoko Brannen (Editor) and the three anonymous reviewers for their truly helpful comments, and to Lorrain Eden (Editor-in-Chief) and Anne Hoekman (Managing Editor) for a considerate review process. I also want to thank Sara Rynes, Jean Bartunek, Kristine Fitch, Roy Suddaby and Terry Boles for inspiring guidance and support from the very early stages of this project, and Kevin Lowe (discussant) and other participants at the 2009 Academy of Management Meeting (Chicago, USA) for their encouraging feedback. The project benefited from research grants from the University of Iowa and the University of New South Wales, and assistance from John Lawson, Bruce March, and Steve Schubert. Last but not least, I want to express my special gratitude to the MNC employees in Romania, along with their spouses, friends or family members, who were so kind to share with me their fascinating work and life experiences.


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© Academy of International Business 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian School of Business, University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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